By Ador Vincent S. Mayol and Jessa Mae O. Sotto |June 21,2018 - 10:56 PM

Stay off the streets. Youngsters beware.

The police are set to implement a stricter crackdown against “tambays” (persons who loiter on the streets) as part of its crime prevention measures.

In Cebu City, the police were preparing an operational plan that would guide the police operatives on how to round up nighttime loiterers within the bounds of the law, said city director, Senior Supt. Joel Doria.

Since Tuesday, he said operatives from all 11 police stations rounded up at least 145 persons who were wandering on the streets late at night.

They were immediately released after they were admonished and told about the nationwide campaign to get rid of tambays at night.

“What we are doing now is to warn people about what we are going to implement. We do this to keep Cebu City safe. As they say ‘Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan’ (For a nation to progress, discipline is needed),” said Doria.

The city director was referring to Oplan Tambay, an acronym for “Tantangon Ang Mga Abusado, Badlongon sa katilingban, Apil na ang mga Yawan-ong buhat (Remove the abusers and the criminals including those who commit evil deeds).

The program, which was implemented in Metro Manila last week, may be launched in Cebu next week.

The intensified campaign against loiterers, Doria said, is in compliance with the directives of President Duterte and Director General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.

The southern city of Talisay had also started rounding up loiterers on the streets from 10 p.m. on Thursday to 6 a.m. the next day.

“We already warned people of Talisay City about this,” said Supt. Marlu Conag, Talisay police chief.

In the cities of Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue, policemen had yet to formally start the campaign against tambays although they already warned the people about their respective curfew and anti-drunkenness ordinances.

Supt. Elmer Lim, deputy director for operations of the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office, said the police would be more active in going after tambays.

“If before, patrol cars would just be moving around at night to call the attention of bystanders, now we would really be talking to them. We would tell them it was not good to be on the streets at night,” he said.

Chief Insp. Mercy Villaro, spokesperson of the Mandaue City Police Office, said the crackdown against tambays at night would help address the problem of fraternities in the city.

“We hope this program will also lessen victims of physical injuries and vehicular accidents — most of whom were drunk persons,” she said.

But lawyer Arvin Odron, director of the Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR-7), said they asked the police officials to suspend the implementation of the program against tambays in the absence of clear cut guidelines.

“The CHR wants to know what constitutes ‘tambay’ because giving the law enforcement the discretion to interpret it without defining it on the guidelines is very dangerous and prone to abuse,” he told Cebu Daily News.

“A person may not in reality be a vagrant or tambay. But if the police will treat him as such, then it will justify his or her arrest and subsequent detention. This is what we are concerned of,” he added.

But Doria clarified that the crackdown was nothing new since the police had already been arresting violators of local ordinances that prohibited vagrancy, drinking and smoking in public places, jeepney dispatching, vandalizing, and noise pollution from videoke or karaoke machines, among others.

“We’re reviewing all the city ordinances now. We do this so that we would have the legal basis in arresting people during the implementation of the Oplan Tambay,” he said.

Doria, however, assured the public that policemen won’t violate human rights in carrying out their mandate.

“Respect for human rights is always paramount. We invite the CHR to accompany us during the implementation of the Oplan Tambay to make sure police are doing things within our mandate,” he said.

Among those who will help the police in implementing the Oplan Tambay are barangay tanods and other force multipliers commissioned by authorities.

Those who would be rounded up, Doria said, would undergo profiling by the police to find out if they had existing arrest warrants.

The police would also coordinate with the Department of Social Welfare and Development to help find shelters for street dwellers and those sleeping on the streets at night.

Doria urged the parents to help the police in reminding young people to avoid staying on the streets at night.

“Through this Oplan Tambay, we expect the crime volume to really do down,” he said.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña urged the police to strictly implement the program to protect Cebuanos especially at night.

In a press conference on Thursday, Osmeña said he personally received complaints through text messages from people who claimed to have been harassed and harmed by bystanders.

“There are lots of complaints especially against children, those rugby boys along Mango Avenue and in Barangay Mambaling. Young women don’t want to board a jeepney because they’re being harassed while others are victims of snatching. I encouraged the police to round up tambays because a lot are complaining about them,” he said.

“Protecting the innocent people is my priority. But we have to monitor (possible abuses in its implementation). Actually, in our experience here, it (abuses) is very minimal,” Osmeña said.

While she has nothing against rounding up vagrants at night, Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale reminded law enforcers to respect human rights in implementing the program.

“We just have to be very careful. Law enforcement should not do something beyond what is allowed by law,” she said.

Magpale, head on the committee on the Provincial Welfare of Women and Children, said the provincial government would procure vans that would serve as temporary shelter for minors who would be rounded up at night.

“These children easily commit crimes since their parents are not looking for them,” she said.

In a speech last week, President Duterte ordered authorities to be strict with tambays who he said were “potential” troublemakers.

He instructed the police to bring to Malacañang those who refused to heed his order and would remain loitering on the streets at night, so he could throw them into the Pasig River.

President Duterte’s remarks drew criticisms from various groups and lawmakers, saying this was a prelude to a martial law. /with reports from Morexette Marie B. Eram, Fe Marie D. Dumaboc, John Michael Aroa, and STC Intern Jaive Agbon

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